May I start by thanking the few of you who have taken the trouble to come and say how much you have enjoyed the blog posts, so I thought it was incumbent upon me to sit down and write another! I had thought about writing about politics, but the only progress I have made is that everyone I have spoken to in our coffee room this morning has said one of two things:
- I cannot be bothered to vote at all, and
- if I get to the polling station, I have no idea where I am going to put my cross – to which I said I have already made my mind up and will put obscenities on the ballot paper! (a slight exaggeration since I wrote my post!)
However, I have just had lunch with a friend and reminisced, since we are both pushing four score years and a bit, about the differences between education at all its levels, then and now. I was happy to regale her with tales of travels in Europe with students, both as a simple lecturer and later as the Erasmus organiser. The first story that came to light, and I don’t know how it started, was when I was in Barcelona with seventy-odd students, in a hotel which turned out to be in the red light district (which is probably why it was cheap!). On the first night, the noise rising from the foyer reached a crescendo at about 4am, as Scottish students, English students and various others, having a dropped a three-gallon jar of sangria on the marble stair case, were making enough noise to drown out a bombing raid had one occurred. My colleague said ‘enough‘, rose from his bed, fled to the top of the stairs and bellowed at the top of his voice ‘shut up and go to your *** beds‘, and was astonished when silence fell immediately! He came back to the room, and I said ‘well done‘. He got back into the room, in bed, and a few minutes later he said ‘I am stark naked‘!
I was somewhat relieved when I no longer had to cavort around Europe with around seventy-five students, but could instead enjoy little groups of five or six in various European cities, such as Malmo, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Kaiserslautern, Strasbourg, Florence, Barcelona and Paris. However, one of the good things was that all the students, certainly for France, Italy and Spain, were offered 26 weeks of language teaching before they ventured out, as were the staff. So I was rather looking forward in the first occasion of going to Florence where we had six students, and being able to exercise my newly learned Italian. When I got there, of course, the students told me that they hadn’t spoken a word of Italian since they had arrived, as the Italian students wanted to try out their English on them. The first time we sat in a wonderful square looking over the city, the waiter came and one of the students came and said ‘due e due e un cappucino‘, I said ‘what’s that?’, the student replied ‘I don’t know the word for five‘! Also they said in reply to my question about how the tutorial were going, that they hadn’t had any because the old lady who kept the door of the University Department wouldn’t let them in. So I said ‘we’ll go tomorrow‘. The next day, I hammered this extremely heavy door: an Italian grim face said ‘si?‘, and I, drawing my self up to my full 5’6″, managed to stammer ‘scusi, sono un professore di architettura scozzese‘, and she immediately replied, ‘Professore Professore‘, and opened the door, when all students rushed in and searched for the tutor!
I am glad I had the opportunity to write this and to remember, all I can say is that from the point of view of this Scot, well traveled in years, it is a pity that we may not remain European…